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Khomeini’s Grandson, a Reformist Candidate, Barred from Running in Iran’s Assembly Elections

The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has been excluded from running for a seat on the Assembly of Experts, the group that will select a successor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The 12-member Guardian Council, which vets candidates for public office, rejected nearly 80 percent of the 801 candidates for the 88-member assembly.

Elections for both Iran’s parliament and the assembly are to be held on February 26.

The Guardian Council last week disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 candidates for the 290-member parliament, including 99 percent of candidates from the reformist camp.

According to Reuters, the Guardian Council “can disqualify candidates on a diverse range of technical and ideological grounds including gender, level of education, and commitment to Islam and the constitution.”

Reuters added that Hassan Khomeini’s exclusion is seen as “major blow to the moderate movement.”

Hossein Rassam, a former political adviser to the British Embassy in Tehran, explained that the so-called moderate faction in Iran, led by former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is becoming increasingly marginalized. “The tiny faction led by Rafsanjani, who once used to lead the assembly, will not be able to have a big say” in determining a successor to Khamenei, said Rassam. Rafsanjani was replaced as the leader of the assembly last year by a hardline cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.

Columnist David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post earlier this month that the elections to Iran’s Assembly of Experts and parliament marked a “showdown,” which could “shape the political balance in Iran for years to come.” Ignatius called Khomeini’s candidacy a “political barometer” that was being closely monitored by the Obama administration, and added:

The Iranian power struggle will intensify in coming weeks as the roster of candidates is screened by a group known as the Guardian Council, which vets their revolutionary credentials. The hard-liners are likely to try to prune the field, but the moderates have prepared by registering so many candidates for the Majlis — by one count, there are more than 12,000 people running — that a total purge would undermine the election’s credibility.

According to Ignatius, “The dilemma for the supreme leader and the hard-liners around him is how to maintain their power without discrediting the political process.”

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